22 January 2008

Verse by verse through Ephesians (2:11-2:22)

Ephesians 2:11-18

11 Therefore remember that you, once Gentiles in the flesh—who are called Uncircumcision by what is called the Circumcision made in the flesh by hands—12 that at that time you were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.

14 For He Himself is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of separation, 15 having abolished in His flesh the enmity, that is, the law of commandments contained in ordinances, so as to create in Himself one new man from the two, thus making peace, 16 and that He might reconcile them both to God in one body through the cross, thereby putting to death the enmity. 17 And He came and preached peace to you who were afar off and to those who were near. 18 For through Him we both have access by one Spirit to the Father.

19 Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, 20 having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone, 21 in whom the whole building, being fitted together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, 22 in whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.


Paul wrote his letter to the Gentile believers in Ephesus. This was a church that was planted by Priscilla and Aquila, pastured for a time by Paul, and then turned over to Timothy. These Gentiles had heard the gospel of Christ, and embraced Him as their Savior. But, after a while, they left their greatest love (Revelation 2:4). It was also a city where Paul and some of his disciples caused "no small stir". Funny thing is, this riot was brought on by pagans, and encouraged by Jews. You see, the Jews did not care who they brought out to oppose those of "the Way" (Acts 19:23)—the name of the followers of Christ before they were first called Christians at Antioch (Acts 11:26). And this is one more example of why we should not believe in this "dual covenant" doctrine that is being promoted by people like John Hagee. If Jews are saved just because they are Jewish, and are of Jewish blood, then does that not mean that the Jews who opposed Paul were also "saved"? They were, after all, Jewish.

But this is the very thing that Paul addresses in this part of his letter to the Ephesians. That, as he would also write in his letter to the Galatians, there is no partiality in God's eyes (see Galatians 3:28). The Cross did away with all that. It did away with the requirements of the ceremonial laws, the dietary laws. It tore down the curtain separating the Holy Place from the Most Holy Place. And it broke down the wall between the temple and the court of the Gentiles. And most of all, it wiped out every distinction between ethnic groups. For if we are in Christ, you are Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise (Galatians 3:29).

Look at verse 11. We were once Gentiles in the flesh. We were, by nature, by birth, Gentiles. There was no way we could change our physical heritage. We could not do anything to make ourselves Jewish. When we were born, we were born into a Gentile family, descended from that lineage, and there was no way to be called Jewish. Now, we could marry a Jewish person (Like Ruth married Boaz), but that would not necessarily make us Jewish.

Does that have a certain familiar ring to it? It should.

In much the same way we were, by nature, by birth, sinners. There was no way we could change our sinful nature. We could not do anything to make ourselves "saved." When we were born, we were born into Adam's family, we inherited that stain of sin, and there was no way we could be called His "child." Now, we could have married a Christian (Like what is happening way too much these days), but that would not necessarily make us Christians.

Paul is reminding these believers at Ephesus that they were aliens from the nation of Israel. That those Jews who mocked and ostracized them were the ones to whom God gave the promises. It was to the house of Israel that Christ first came bringing the message of God's kingdom (Matthew 10:5-6). Those who were Jews outwardly had wanted nothing to do with those whom they called "Uncircumcision." Because they felt that they alone were God's chosen people (Which they indeed were), they felt that all they had to do was keep performing their ceremonies, keep bringing their bulls and goats to the temple, and they were just as right as rain in God's eyes. Those filthy Gentiles? Eh, let 'em perish! In fact, several Rabbinical writings taught that God made the Gentiles to fuel the fires of Hell.

And, likewise, many Gentiles hated the nation of Israel. Look at how many enemies surrounded the Israelites! Babylon, Egypt, Assyria, Ethiopia, Libya. The list goes on and on. And even to this day, so many have a hatred for the Jewish people. Many people seem to have this idea that Jews somehow control all the money in the world. That they are trying to take over the world. And look at how many enemies Israel has! Hezbollah, Iran, Jordan, Hollywood. The list goes on and on. There are even many who claim to be Christians, and yet they think that we should hate Jews. They seem to think that because it was the Jews who handed over Christ to be crucified, that they themselves deserve to die.

How silly is that! Have they not forgotten that Jesus' 12 apostles were Jewish? That Paul was Jewish? That there are many Messianic Jews throughout the world? That, as Paul wrote, it is the Israelites …to whom pertaineth the adoption, and the glory, and the covenants, and the giving of the law, and the service of God, and the promises… (Romans 9:4). Besides, these people seem to have skipped over these words of the apostle John—He that saith he is in the light, and hateth his brother, is in darkness even until now (1st John 2:9), and Whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer: and ye know that no murderer hath eternal life abiding in him (1st John 3:15). These are people who have never considered that Jesus Himself was Jewish. And that if they had lived in a different time, and had been born outside of the nation of Israel, they would have had no access to God whatsoever. So, lest these people who harbor such hatred for the Jewish people think too highly of themselves, let them read these words of Paul—a Jew (Philippians 3:4-6). We were once Gentiles in the flesh…at that time we were without Christ…aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, strangers from the covenants of promise…

…having no hope, and without God in the world
. What a calamity to find oneself in. Having no hope. Look back at how Paul begins this paragraph—with the word "therefore." He is tying this whole discourse back to our being saved by grace. Therefore, remember… Just as there was nothing you could have done to make yourselves Jewish, there was nothing you could have done to make yourselves Christian. And you were separated from the covenants of promise before you knew Christ, and you had no hope apart from Him. No hope. Nothing to look forward to but a certain fearful expectation of judgment which shall devour His enemies (Hebrews 10:27).

You were without God in this world. Literally, "You were a godless bunch of people." They may have believed in this "god" or that "god"—but really, they believed in no god. …we know that an idol is nothing in the world, and that there is none other God but one. For though there be that are called gods, whether in heaven or in earth, (as there be gods many, and lords many), But to us there is but one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we in him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we by him (1st Corinthians 8:4-6). We think of the atheist or the agnostic as the only ones who are "godless." Yet even those who worship statues and idols and trinkets and beads and dead bones—these too are "godless." And, yes, even those who think they know God—and even want to know God—are, indeed, "godless."

But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off… We weren't off by a little bit. It wasn’t as if, "Well, you're close enough, so I'll give it to ya." We were far off. Even if we were off a little bit concerning His character and His nature, we were far off. When you know someone who says they believe something about God that is false—no matter how small the degree of falsity according to man's standards—do not let that person go on believing the falsehood. Which is why my heart grieves for a man like Joel Osteen. When asked about Mormons, and whether they are Christians, he gladly closes his eyes, sticks his fingers in his ears, and says, "Well, ya know, I haven’t studied it too much. But, hey, they say they're Christians, so that's good enough for me!" And he thinks that's love! No, my friend, love is speaking the truth to anyone who is deceived, regardless of the deception. After all, Jehovah's Witnesses say they believe in Christ. Does that make it so? Muslims believe they worship the "one God." Does that make it so?

But we, who have found the truth (or, rather, the truth has found us), who were once an eternity away from God, have been brought near by the blood of Christ.
  • By the blood of bulls and goats? No, by the blood of Christ.
  • By works of righteousness? No, by the blood of Christ.
  • By giving and serving and doing all kinds of good deeds? No, by the blood of Christ.
  • By keeping the Law of Moses? No, by the blood of Christ.
  • By asking Mary to pray for us? No, by the blood of Christ.
  • The most despicable sinner, the most ignorant person, the pagan who is the most hopelessly lost (according to man's standards) pagan—how are they reconciled to God? By the blood of Christ.
  • The Jew who is brought up learning about YHWH, and how He is the supreme God over all the earth, and who keeps the feasts and observes the holy days and the Passover and all the Sabbaths—how does eternal life come to them? By the blood of Christ.
This is one of those places where no more needs to be said about this. The words say what they say. They do not pretend to any other. They cannot be made to say any other. We who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. And nothing else.

For He Himself is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of separation, having abolished in His flesh the enmity, that is, the law of commandments contained in ordinances, so as to create in Himself one new man from the two, thus making peace, and that He might reconcile them both to God in one body through the cross, thereby putting to death the enmity. He Himself has made all who believe—whether you were born a Jew, or whether you were born a Gentile—He has made us all to be of one blood—the blood of Christ. And He has broken down the middle wall of separation. Let us take a look at that. It was this law that kept Jews from marrying those of certain nations. This was symbolized by the wall separating the temple from the court of the Gentiles. The Gentiles were prohibited from not only the Most Holy Place, not only the Holy Place, not only the inner part of the temple—they were prohibited from entering the temple at all.

Now, let us consider the work of our Lord in tearing down these restrictions. Not only did He cause the veil of the temple—the partition between the Holy Place and the Most Holy Place—to be rent from the top to the bottom (Matthew 27:52), thus establishing Himself as our High Priest—He has now brought low the wall that separated Jew from Gentile. Therefore, let no man judge us according to race (Galatians 3:28-29), and let us show no man any partiality when they enter into the house of the Lord (James 2:1-7).

The veil and the wall were not brought down by works of the Law. In fact, the works of the Law were brought low along with the veil and the wall. The Jews once looked to the temple—and before that, the tabernacle, and the Ark of the Covenant—as the place where God dwelt. But Christ put an end to that.
  • For, as He told the Samaritan woman, Jesus saith to her, "Woman, believe me, that there doth come an hour, when neither in this mountain, nor in Jerusalem, shall ye worship the Father; but, there cometh an hour, and it now is, when the true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father also doth seek such to worship him…" (John 4:21, 23).
  • And that time is here, as Paul made clear to the Athenian pagans, "God, who made the world and everything in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands. Nor is He worshiped with men's hands, as though He needed anything, since He gives to all life, breath, and all things" (Acts 17:24-25).
  • And did not the writer of Hebrews also tell us so? But Christ came as High Priest of the good things to come, with the greater and more perfect tabernacle not made with hands, that is, not of this creation. Not with the blood of goats and calves, but with His own blood He entered the Most Holy Place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption (Hebrews 9:11-12).
So, Christ has made all who believe in Him—not Jew or Gentile, but children of the living God. He has broken down the wall of separation between them, has put away the enmity—not only between Jew and Gentile, but between us and God. He has brought us near to God by the blood of His cross. He has abolished in His flesh the requirements of the Law.

And He came and preached peace to you who were afar off and to those who were near. For through Him we both have access by one Spirit to the Father. Who was it that dwelt between the cherubim (Psalm 80:1)? But, since God does not have a body of flesh and bones (John 4:24), then who was it that resided atop the Ark? Was it not, indeed, the Holy Spirit? And if it was the Holy Spirit, does that not mean that the Holy Spirit is God Himself? For your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own…For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God's. (1st Corinthians 6:19-20). So, if we are the temple of the Holy Spirit, and if our body belongs to God, and God shares His glory with no one (Isaiah 42:8)—well, I think you can do the math. We have access to God through His Holy Spirit. Not only are we allowed into the Holy of Holies, but now God Himself takes up residence within us. We are of one spirit, all those who believe. Therefore, we are one even as the Father and the Son are one (John 17:22).

Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God… We are one. We are no longer Jew, Caucasian, Slavic, Oriental, African, etc. We are God's children, we who share in the like precious faith (2nd Peter 1:1). We will see each other, we will know each other, and be known by each other.

…having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone, in whom the whole building, being fitted together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit. We measure our lives against the Chief Cornerstone. We see in His life the life we would endeavor every day to live. A life that is measured—not against the whims and pleasures of man—but by the word of God, which word is able to divide between even the soul and the spirit (Hebrews 4:12). We allow the writings of the apostles and prophets—men who did not just write a bunch of good ideas they came up with, but wrote as they were moved by God (2nd Peter 1:19-21). Thus, with every angle and every joist coming together as designed by the Master Builder—who Himself built a church with two boards and three nails—we grow into the fulness of a dwelling place suitable for God.

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